How to Cut Cast Iron Pipe

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Cast iron piping is a very strong type of metal. Regular tools around the home will not be strong enough to cut through this kind of pipe. Finding the right tool to help you slice through the pipes at the right time can be important to getting your project done. Let’s look at the most effective methods below!

Methods for Cutting Cast Iron Pipe

Cutting a cast iron pipe takes some time and a little bit of knowledge to make sure you get the perfect cut each time. There are several main methods that you can use to help handle this cutting and you can choose the one that works the best for your project or that you are most comfortable with. Some of the best methods to use to cut cast iron pipe include:

The Cold Chisel Method

This is a handheld method that can be effective to take care of the cast iron pipe. You will need to use a cold chisel at the same time that a ball-peen hammer is used as well. This allows the cutting to be easier, but it does take skill and experience to get it done.

Pipes made from cast iron

You may also need more space to get the work done. For the cold chisel to work, you must access the whole pipe on all sides.

You will also need a few tools present, like a good hammer and a cold chisel, to make this one work when cutting through the pipe. If you still want to use this method, there are a few simple steps to use to help with that. These include:

  1. Trace the line: Using crayon or chalk, you can make a straight line to help follow when it is time to cut.
  2. Make small cuts: The cold chisel is very precise, but it also takes a lot of time to use. To get the best results, start with some smaller cuts as you move around the line in the pipe.
  3. Break the pipe off: You need to keep making small cuts all around the diameter of the pipe until a tap from the hammer helps it get free. Try to cut all around the pipe at least once to avoid fraying or jagged edges.

And that is all there is to it! You may need to go around a few times depending on the thickness of the cast iron pipe and how deep the cuts are that you make. Take your time with this; it is not a quick method, but it is effective.

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The Hacksaw Method

Hacksaws are a cheap tool to keep around your home for many projects you want to do and it can even work to help take care of cutting a cast iron pipe. If you do use this method though, it is likely you will need a few different blades to cut all the way through.

The hacksaw will get the job done, but the pipes are often strong enough to ruin the blades quickly. This is a very slow method to use and can lead to a lot of frustration, so it is best to avoid it.

The Reciprocating Saw Method

Another method that you can use to cut into the cast iron pipe is the reciprocating saw method. If you have one of these saws on hand, it will be a versatile tool to have for many projects.

Similar to the hacksaw though, keep a few extra blades on hand. It is likely the cast iron pipes will wear out at least one or more while you do the cutting.

Using the reciprocating saw method on your cast iron pipes to cut them does not have to be a challenge. Simply do the following:

  1. Align your blade: You need to line up the blade on the saw with the line you marked on the pipe earlier. Double-check to make sure that everything is lined up the way that you would like. Start cutting into the pipe at moderate speed.
  2. Add water: You need to keep the blade cool as. You do this to avoid problems with overheating. Add small amounts of water to the pipe as you cut to help keep things cool.
  3. Complete the cut: Finish the cut going from one side to the other until you make it all the way through.

Remember to go through this slowly to help keep the pipe from overheating and to get the perfect cut you are looking for. A powerful reci saw will make short work of your iron pipes.

The Snap Cutter Method

Snap cutters are simple and can be very effective when it comes to cutting through cast iron pipe. You need to have a little strength to get this method done since the pipes are so strong.

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But the method is easy enough for anyone to use and with the right amount of force, you can easily cut through the cast iron pipe in the way that you would like. The steps you need to make this one happen are:

  1. Wrap the cutting chain: You should wrap the cutting chain on the snap cutter all around the pipe and then latch it together. The chain will latch onto the ratcheting head when you do this and should be snug.
  2. Position the cutting wheels: You can then position the cutting wheels so that they can rest on the marked line. Snug up the chain with a tension adjustment to make it as tight as necessary to do this job.
  3. Pump the ratchet arm: When you pump this arm, you will tighten the chain each time it is cranked. Eventually this will get tight enough that the cast iron pipe will snap and make a pop when it breaks away from the rest.

As we mentioned, it takes quite a bit of strength to make this one happen well. But with some practice, and perhaps a little help from someone else to get enough power going, you will be able to slice right through the pipe pretty effectively.

Person using an angle grinder

Using an Angle Grinder Method

Another option to use is the angle grinder to cut cast iron pipe. This is a versatile tool that can perform a lot of cutting jobs, especially those in tight areas. Like any of the other saws that we have on our list, you need to use caution and go slowly through the method to make sure that it will cut through the pipe well without causing damage.

To use the angle grinder, follow the steps below:

  • Protect from any sparks: If you need to cut the pipe in tight quarters, you may get some sparks off the angle grinder. Make sure that you protect any material that is around the area from sparks so you do not end up with a fire.
  • Cut carefully: You should keep your grip firm on the grinder. This helps you to cut carefully along the line that you should mark, moving around the entire diameter of the pipe.
  • Use a diamond blade: Diamond blades on the angle grinder is a good option. This is more effective at slicing through the cast iron pipe and will not dull the blade out as bad.

An angle grinder is a good tool to use to help take care of your piping and make sure that it gets cut as fast as possible. Consider using a diamond blade if you are able to find one, or if you plan to cut through a lot of cast iron pipe, to help you get this done without dulling the blade each time.

The Portable Bandsaw Method

The final method we will look at is the portable bandsaw method. Bandsaws are a good tool to use when you need to cut through almost anything on a regular basis.

You should keep a smaller and lighter model on hand to get the flexibility and versatility to cut through everything that you would like. While cast iron can be a hard metal to use with some saws, your portable bandsaw should be strong enough to get the work done.

One downside of using the portable bandsaw though is that there isn’t a lot of support through this tool. This means that there is a chance that your cuts will be crooked.

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Unless you want to add some extra steps to the process to get those cuts cleared up, you need to use this with caution or choose another option to get the work done. You may also need to consider getting a few blades if you plan to cut through a lot of pipe.

Summary

Cast iron pipes are known to be tough, which is why so many people choose to add them into their home. When you need to cut into them though, regular tools will not do the job. With the right tools and a little bit of patience, you can cut through the cast iron to get it the right size for your needs. Consider some of the great options above to help you slice through the cast iron pipes in no time.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.